Friday, August 10, 2012

Dayton and the professional life

Dayton has lots of fun things to do.

For instance, last Sunday, Abbie and I came home from church after getting an early lunch at Panera to find our neighborhood flooded with unfamiliar cars.

"What's that truck think he's doing parking in front of our house like that?" Abbie asked.
It was pretty soon apparent that truck, along with the 50 or so other cars lining our street, were attending a rare community event just up the street: an estate auction, a.k.a. the Olympics of people-watching.

Sidenote because I'm watching time-delay Olympics: It has occurred to me that if Usain Bolt were a Frisbee player, he could catch his own endzone passes from the opposite side of the field. I'll have him on my team, thanks very much. "I show de world I am best." That's right buddy, you sure did.

"You want to go?" Abbie asked, grinning.
"Duh!" I said as we both hopped out of the car.

The auction began at 11, so we were more than an hour late, and they were just getting to the good stuff. A hot dog truck was parked in front of the house.

"Aw man, we should have just gone here for lunch!" I said, checking out the prices and getting hungry again by the smell.

We followed the sound of sweet deals around to the back of the house where a tent was set up in front of the garage. At least 50 people were crowded under the tent in a semi-circle around the auctioneer's table. Behind him, auction minions mined treasures untold in the garage.

As we walked up, a barbie classic Chevy was up for bids.

"Who will start the bidding for this priceless-Barbie-car-a-True-piece-of-automobile-memorabilia-Don't-wanna-pass-this-up can I get a TEN-ten-dolla-ten-ten howbouta FIVE-five-gimme-five-here's-a-FIVE! Five-here-gimme-seven-and-a-half seven-and-a-half?-we-gotta-five-here and SEVEN! 10-now-gimme-10-ten-TEN? Sold seven dollars to number 146!"

And just like that, the late-thirties-something man sporting long scruffy sideburns and a bright orange NASCAR shirt with holes in the armpits standing to my right became the proud owner of Barbie's first car.

"More stuff I don't want," he mumbled under his breath, adding the car to a stack of loot including a child's bike, a baby doll stroller, a vintage coffee grinder, and a car-battery-powered tire pump.

As the minions showed off a vast collection of antique board games on the auction table, I caught a look around the group. Attending estate auctions seems to be a multi-generational family affair in Dayton. A grandmother sat in a plastic patio chair (no doubt acquired earlier in the sale) with her granddaughter retrieving her purchases. A father stood with his arms resting comfortably on his middle-school aged son's shoulders, he and his three sons all dressed in heavy boots. Leaning against the garage and so inconspicuous I didn't notice him until he'd bought up a small fortune's worth of aged household items. Dressed in black cargo pants, a utility belt and a thin black frocket tee with a face that looked like he'd never heard of sunscreen ... or shaving cream, he looked exactly how I'd expect an antiques dealer not to.

In addition to providing wild entertainment in the range of characters present, the auction made me introspective as each item brought up for sale expanded my picture of the person it once belonged to, assuming their former owner has passed on. A collector's edition, but unassembled model steam engine, a nearly unused food processor, an industrial-strength french-fry press, a child's toy cash register. Grandkids? Crafty? Foodie? Modestly wealthy, but too busy to appreciate it? What would people wonder about my life if all my stuff were lined up on tables and presented to the world as items of great worth to be obtained for a steal?

Thunder rumbled lightly in the distance and sprinkles started to tickle our shoulders, so we decided to tear ourselves away from the spectacle and walk home.

Another fun thing to do in Dayton, but that I haven't yet tried, is to eat lunch on courthouse square during your work week. Or at least, that's how it's pitched in the weekly downtown e-newsletter. I'm hoping to take advantage of this when the weather turns a little cooler, as I don't want to miss the opportunity to perhaps rendez-vous with a few friends who work downtown and maybe enjoy a really terrible Pearljam cover band or something.

If you're free Wednesday nights, you can wander down to Yellow Springs for a night of "Brains are Sexy" trivia conceived by Ultimate-Frisbee-master-and-admitted-hippie-but-the-nicest-guy-you'll-ever-meet Todd to compete with regulars such as the rowdy "Go Home and Hug Your Little League Trophy," complete with little league trophy, or the less-disruptive "Drunk People At the Bar," who tend to make out surprisingly well considering their self-professed state of mind.

For business lunches, the Dayton Racquet Club offers the best in ambiance of the whole dang town. Situated on the 29th and highest floor of the Kettering Tower -- Dayton's largest and most prestigious skyscraper -- the view and the sweet potato fries beg me to return often.

When it turns cold, I hope to take advantage of the public ice skating rinks found everywhere there is water because OH YEAH I KEEP FORGETTING I live where the ponds freeze up. Except maybe not this one:

My final occasional pleasure in my semi-professional existence is as much as source of perplex-dom as joy.
Coffee meetings are a regular part of my work-week, and not being a coffee-drinker, I've spent some time evaluating coffee-shop menus to determine what drinks will be least offensive to my palate. For a while I played it safe with the iced chai latte, but recently I've branched out to the caramel frappacino, discovering that it about as closely resembles coffee as post-facial-reconstruction-and-skin-bleaching-Michael-Jackson resembled his teenage heartthrob self. But with this intrepid foray into the world of liquid dessert comes the age-old question:

"Would you like whipped cream with that?"
-"Excuse me? Is that even a question?" I respond. Do I look like the type to turn down the taste of frothy heaven that is coffee-house whipped cream?
But here's my frustration. When I answer yes, they seem to take that as permission to spoil the treat by putting it on top my drink. I then take the drink from the counter and turn to meet and greet whomever it is I'm meeting, but my mind is on one thing. How do I get the deliciousness into my mouth without wearing it as a supplement to my makeup? Where's my spoon? You can't inhale whipped cream through a straw, and while my mouth is large enough to swallow up the impressively swirled cream mountain in one pass, I'd like to preserve my inkling of credibility.
Would I like whipped cream with that? Why absolutely! But next time, can we skip the cup and deliver it straight to my mouth? You know, late-night-refrigerator-raid-style, unmediated, straight from the can?

... I'll never be an adult.

Here's another funny -- but completely unrelated -- story about me trying to pass for a professional: This Thursday I was on the phone interviewing a source whom I'd never met nor seen a picture of, nor she of me.
After twenty minutes of questions, followed by furious typing and mindless noncommittal murmurs of understanding to fill the awkward silence while I hammered the keys to keep up with the quotes, I asked my final question.
"And in what year did you found the company?
-"1985, which is before you were born, isn't it?"
I laughed. "Is it really that obvious?"
-"Oh yes. You're what, 21 years old?"
Blown away, I nearly dropped the phone. "How did you know?"
-"You say the phrase 'very cool' a lot."
Frrealz? Just that and she knew? I resolved to drop my voice two octaves for all future phone interviews, and perhaps substitute a computer-generated picture of me in 10 years for my company photo.

That's all for now!

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